Pankaj Agrawal, CEO, KC Overseas Education
Pankaj Agrawal is CEO of KC Overseas Education. As a legacy company based out of India, with an extensive network of offices in a range of countries, KC Overseas is looking to employ technology to further its global growth ambitions. He sat down with The PIE to tell more.
The PIE: Can you tell us about KC Overseas Education, who are you and what do you do?
Pankaj Agrawal: We are a rapidly growing edtech company that assists students, study abroad consultants and overseas institutions with student recruitment activities across the globe.
The PIE: How has KC Overseas Education evolved since it started 23 years ago?
PA: Since its inception in 1998, KC Overseas Education has evolved into one of the most respected and trusted brands in the overseas education sector. This has been made possible by strategically acquiring crucial university tie-ups across countries and continents, by always putting our customers and stakeholders first and by our honest and transparent business practices.
The company has grown consistently over the first two decades. But the launch of our edtech platform Course Finder in 2017 marked the amalgamation of our years of industry expertise with cutting-end technology, and we rapidly expanded across the length and breadth of South Asia.
“As we are going heavy on technology, we propose to invest another US$3-5 million over the next two years”
Our Course Finder platform has some exciting features like a search engine, with the new and unique eligibility filter, other advanced filters and the ability to make unlimited student applications. The search engine helps users search near perfect course options from our vast database of 80,000+ courses offered by our represented 700+ universities in 29+ countries. Over and above this it has a fully integrated dashboard, control access, and deep integrations with payment gateways and auxiliary service providers making this platform a one stop solution for study abroad recruiters.
Even during the pandemic, we have been quite aggressive and have ramped up our team to almost double its original size to service our growing number of B2B partners more efficiently. In spite of all the challenges we faced during the pandemic, we were able to recruit the same number of students annually that we recruited pre-pandemic and are now aiming to scale up these numbers further in the coming years
The PIE: Who are your key competitors?
PA: In terms of our current key competitors, I can say that in the B2B segment there are players such as ApplyBoard and Adventus.io who have leveraged tech, whereas in the B2C segment there are companies such as IDP, Edwise and TC Global.
The PIE: How do you compare to the funding that some of those companies have raised?
PA: We are a high profit making and debt-free company. We have invested almost US$2 million in our tech platform Course Finder in the last three years, from our own internal accruals. We have also invested in a fintech division called ÉLAN Loans, where we assist partners in getting education loans for their students higher studies overseas.
“Our brand is already quite well known in the market”
As we are going heavy on technology, we propose to invest another US $3-5 million over the next two years in ramping up these platforms to offer more services and advanced features.
The PIE: Can you tell us a bit about your global expansion plans?
PA:. We are swiftly expanding our presence in key student recruitment markets across the globe. In the last two years, we ventured into Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, all emerging markets of South Asia. During the pandemic, we expanded to the South East Asian countries of Vietnam and Malaysia, and in the next 12 months we intend to venture into destinations like South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria and Iran.
The PIE: And in terms of finding new associate partners, how do you do that and how do you ensure that your branding and the KC brand is protected?
PA: We are a brand trusted by more than 5000+ student recruiters globally, so our brand is already quite well known in the market. While acquiring new partner associates we employ multiple channels. We hire professionals from the same industry at key positions such as country sales managers or regional managers, who already know the quality players in the market. We also use digital marketing to generate enquiries and further deepen our partner base.
“Indian students are very location centric”
Once the new partner associates are onboarded, we empower them by providing virtual learning sessions and webinars conducted by university delegates and KC country specialists. We ensure the quality of applications is maintained, by routing all applications to our highly skilled backend team at our head office in India.
The PIE: I imagine your experience with your franchise model has helped you to maintain quality too?
PA: We currently have more than 53 active franchises across India, as well as overseas. We have been very selective in taking them onboard.
We make sure they have industry expertise, have studied overseas or have a good academic as well as financial background and only then do we initiate their on-boarding. We then offer them specialised trainings and assign a dedicated back end team to support them. Thanks to these initiatives we have been able to recruit a sizable number of students via our Franchise model.
The PIE: Finally, what are the big trends in destination choices among your students?
PA: Indian students are very location centric. They want to experience the country and it’s culture, work there and mix with the international crowd. Canada and UK are currently the most popular study destinations for Indian students, and after president Biden got elected, the US is catching up fast. These are the top three destinations, which are preferred by most of the Indian students at present.
“We are seeing an increasing trend in students interested in European countries”
We have seen a drop in interest for other major destinations like Australia and New Zealand during the pandemic, as students are eagerly looking forward to the opening up of international borders by these two countries.
In the last couple of years, we have also experienced that many countries are trying to have a share of the pie of the international students market to boost up their export revenue. We are seeing an increasing trend in students interested in European countries like France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Spain, as they have some prestigious top ranked institutions here. A good number of students are opting to go to universities in these destinations for some niche programmes offered by them.